Blesok no. 93, November-December, 2013

Lakes in Wisconsin
Translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel

Ivan Hristov


All of this took place
on the shores of a lake
in Wisconsin,
when Larry let me stay
in his guesthouse.
A small house
with photos on the walls,
with a shower, kitchen and bathroom,
with a piano, a typewriter
and a living room.
Larry didn't know then
that I had lived
with the Vasilevs,
who were very afraid
that I would become an alcoholic,
even though their son was
an alcoholic and one night
he stole my television.
Then I lived at Krum's.
When I used his bathtub
the woman downstairs shrieked
that her hallway was flooded.
(I don't think Krum had taken
a bath in ten years.)
Larry also didn't know
that I had lived at Simon's,
on Rakovski Street.
It was a nice room,
but didn't have any windows.
I bought a little lamp
that I turned on at night
so that it wouldn't be like
waking up in a coffin.
I even lived in a basement,
in the army,
with Gonzo – an orphan,
who every morning
opened his eyes
and lit up a cigarette.
Larry, my friend,
there's so much you don't know!
Thank you
for letting me live
in your guesthouse.
God bless you,
as I write these lines
on your typewriter!


A white Chevrolet,
year 1990!
He tossed me the keys
and said "Try it."
I was amazed,
because it wasn't
that old car from my dad,
who would smack me
on the back of the head
for every mistake.
Four gears?
P - park
R - reverse
N - "neutral" he said,
"like Switzerland"
D - straight ahead
Only gas and brakes!
When I turned the key
the lights lit up at night.
With that car I toured
the lakes of Wisconsin.
Moccasin Lake,
Storm Lake,
Sunset Lake.
Sometimes I stopped to take pictures
of herds of deer.
Other times I filled up the tank.
I floored the pedal
and discovered America.
A white Chevrolet,
year 1990.
My first car,
even though it really
belonged to Douglas,
my wife's father.


All of this took place
on the shores of a lake
in Wisconsin,
when I entered
Larry’s house
and in the living room,
behind glass,
I caught sight of an old
sewing machine.
Memories immediately
burst into my head.
My grandmother also had
such a machine
and most likely
from long use
she had come to resemble
it completely.
There’s her shoulder -
the Singer’s machine bed,
there’s her white hair -
a belt with frayed walls,
there are her thin hands –
a presser foot and feed dog.
As deft as a shuttle,
with zigzag teeth,
with a spool-pin hump,
and a needle-bar mole
I had a bobbin-winder grandmother.
Then I suddenly thought –
You’re right, Larry, my friend,
The difference between present
and past
is expressed
in the relation between
living memory
and dead exhibit.


And we were standing
on the shore of a lake
in Minnesota
playing on the beach –
my wife, my daughter and I.
Every hour on the hour
we had to get out
of the water,
and every five minutes
airplanes would fly
over our heads.
I thought about it.
How could we possibly
have ended up here,
so close
to these monsters’
and we’re playing on the beach
on top of everything?

Ground Zero

I took that bus –
for sightseeing,
where you can see all of
New York City in two days.
I was astonished
that the route included
a stop at “Ground Zero.”
Can you really turn
emptiness into an object of desire,
how much does a ticket
to nothing cost?

In front of “Ground Zero”
everyone was silent,
as if before some
invisible graveyard.
Only one African-American woman
was still shouting:
“Look out!”
“Look out!”
even though
five years
had already passed.
I gazed at
the naked earth
to discover some ruins,
some trace
of bygone life,
but failed.
In that terrible silence
I was the only tourist
burdened by history.

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